Imperial, California - (BPT) - Family and friends make Thanksgiving special, but it’s the food that’s always the center of attention. From juicy turkey and creamy potatoes to zesty cranberries and buttery rolls, nobody leaves the table hungry. This year, delight guests by making the classic foods they love but with a few simple twists that will leave taste buds dancing.

When guests arrive, give them something to nibble on as they visit and watch the parade or game. A cheese platter that features three to five new varieties will get everyone talking. Select a range of flavors to tempt every palate, such as pairing soft brie with a crumbly blue and Black Creek premium extra-aged cheddar cheese, made by Certified Master Cheesemakers.

The cheese shouldn’t stand alone, so be sure to complement it with fresh fruits. Instead of simply placing bite-size pieces on a plate, create fruit cornucopias using sugar ice cream cones. Simply spoon fruit into the cones and arrange the mini cornucopias on a platter for a beautiful seasonal presentation that’s easy to grab and enjoy for party guests young and old.

Apple cider is a holiday must-have to quench Thanksgiving thirst. This year, add some interest to your beverage offerings with a themed drink that expands on the sweet cider flavors. For example, an autumn sangria is the perfect seasonal offering that’s as cheerful as it is refreshing. Start with sparkling wine and add in a splash of cider with freshly sliced pears and apples. Finish with a few cranberries and sprinkle some nutmeg on top. For young guests or those who prefer non-alcoholic drinks, simply swap out wine for alcohol-free sparkling juice.

Cranberries are a Thanksgiving staple, but most people take a small spoonful and move on. If you want to add new flavor to cranberries so guests will be asking for seconds, different spices and additions could mean lip-smacking results. Sweet citrus fruits like oranges taste heavenly when cooked down with cranberries. A splash of port can bring new depths to the classic dish, too. Allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg and even chili powder can add surprising flavor. If you want to add texture, crushed walnuts add crunch and complexity to the sauce.

Thanksgiving menus often include several potato dishes. The secret to enhancing potato dishes is adding cheese for an indulgent result. For example, the complex flavors of crumbled gorgonzola folded into sweet potatoes make a rich dish that guests will love. With a cheesemaking history that dates back to 1923, you can’t go wrong with Stella Gorgonzola. Upgrade standard mashed all-purpose white potatoes (russet, Idaho, etc.) by sprinkling in freshly grated parmesan or cheddar for extra kick.

No matter how full you are after your Thanksgiving dinner, there’s always room for dessert. Instead of or in addition to pumpkin pie, try pumpkin cupcakes or pumpkin cheesecake. Add new flavor to apple pie or apple crisp by mixing shredded cheddar cheese into the apple mixture prior to baking. Guests will ooh-and-ahh over how the sharp cheddar flavor enhances the sweet apple filling.

Need inspiration? Try these two delicious recipes perfect for enhancing any Thanksgiving table. For more unique recipes, visit

Cheddar Apple Crisp
Makes 8 servings.

4 cups apples (crisp and tart such as Braeburn), peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 plus 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed, divided
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter
1 cup Black Creek cheddar cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine apples, lemon juice and 1/3 cup brown sugar. Arrange in buttered 8 or 9-inch square pan. Combine dry ingredients and cut in butter until mixture is crumbly; gently mix in cheese. Sprinkle evenly over apple mixture. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream, garnish with shredded cheese.

Baked Sweet Potatoes with Cranberry Gorgonzola Gremolata
Makes 6 servings.

6 medium sweet potatoes
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1 lemon, zested
1 clove garlic, minced finely
3 tablespoons minced pecans
3 tablespoons finely chopped dried cranberries
1 scallion, minced
2 ounces Stella gorgonzola, crumbled (If you prefer a milder flavor, use 2 ounces crumbled blue cheese instead of gorgonzola)


Preheat oven to 450 F. Place sweet potatoes on cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Flip over and return to oven to bake until tender - about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

When cool enough to do so safely, peel sweet potatoes. Place in a medium skillet over low heat with butter, salt and maple syrup for 5 minutes, basting the potatoes with the butter mixture occasionally. Lightly smash the potatoes until there is an even consistency. Hold over low heat.

To make the gremolata: In a small bowl, toss together parsley, lemon zest, garlic, pecans, cranberries and scallion. Gently fold in the cheese.

Move sweet potatoes to a serving dish and sprinkle with the gremolata. Serve hot.